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Assault

The Charge

Under s. 265 of the Criminal Code a person commits assault when they apply force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. This includes threatening, by act or gesture, to apply such force to another person. Assault, therefore, covers all acts where force is actually applied (such as a slap, punch or kick) to situations where force is threatened (such as raising a fist). Assault is a hybrid offence, meaning Crown counsel has the option of proceeding by indictment, where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment or, Crown may proceed summarily, where the maximum penalty is two years jail, less a day. There are no mandatory minimum penalties for Assault. We’ve been defending assault charges for more than 25 years. We understand that the majority of people charged with assault had no plan to commit an offence. Rather, people charged with assault usually find themselves in situations that rapidly escalate into a physical altercation. Often, alcohol or other intoxicants are involved. Sometimes serious injury occurs, leading to charges of assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault. If a weapon, or an object as a weapon, is involved, people can be charged with assault with a weapon.

The Investigation

The nature of when and how a complaint is made to police will determine how the investigation unfolds. In some cases, for example when concerned patrons in a nightclub or pub see a fight break out, police are called and will attend quickly and make an arrest. In other cases, police may not receive a complaint for several days or longer. When this happens, police will contact the suspect by telephone or by attending at their home or workplace. No matter when police deal with the suspect, they will want to hear the suspect’s side of the story. As experienced criminal defence lawyers, this is where we can help clients understand that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that people under police investigation have the right to remain silent.

In situations where clients contact us after the alleged assault incident, but before they are arrested, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine who the lead investigator is; we will then contact this officer and discuss the investigation on our client’s behalf. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between police and our client. We will strive to persuade police to not recommend any charges or, where police do want to pursue charges, we will strive to get police to agree to not arrest our client. Rather, we will endeavor to arrange that our client can appear in court to have the arrest warrant “deemed executed,” without the need for our client to be taken into custody.

Recent Successes

R. vs. R.C. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Criminal Harassment; Breach of a recognizance.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate to resolve this domestic harassment by ending the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charges upon. our client entering into a Peace Bond for a period of 12 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.N. – RCMP Investigation

Charge: Possession of child pornography.
Issue: Whether police would be able to prove that our client was the only person that had access to the IP address on which the unlawful material was downloaded.
Result: Mr. Mines provided information to the police investigator that led the investigator to close the file with no charges recommended against our client. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. D. K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for the court to enter a conviction.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through a course of rehabilitation and was able to persuade Crown counsel and the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge.  No criminal conviction.

R. vs. T. F. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (no contact).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that our client intended to breach the "no contact" order that he was subject to.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that our client bumped into the complainant accidentally. Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the matter to an end. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.X. – Insurance Fraud Investigation.

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: In light of the rehabilitative steps our client completed, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with this child discipline/assault case.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to rely on the extraordinary circumstances of the case and our client's commitment to ongoing family counselling. He was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. A.M. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: In light of the rehabilitative steps our client completed, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with this child discipline/assault case.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to rely on the extraordinary circumstances of the case and our client's commitment to ongoing family counselling. He was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. – ICBC Investigation

Charges: Failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
Issue: Whether our client was obligated to provide a possibly incriminating  statement to the adjuster that could have led to criminal charges and a loss of  insurance coverage.
Result:  Mr. Mines was able to provide the required information to ICBC on our client's behalf. No charges were  recommended. No loss of insurance coverage.

R. vs. R. L. – New Westminster Supreme Court (jury).

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: The credibility and reliability of the complainant and  our client who both testified in this historic sexual assault case.
Result: After  9 hours of deliberations, the jury was deadlocked and could not reach an unanimous decision. No conviction. The trial judge remitted the matter back to court to set a new trial.

R. vs. S.M.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After gearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $100 fine and a 3 year driving prohibition. No criminal record. No jail.

R. vs. S.G. – Coquitlam RCMP Investigation

Charge: Theft Under $5000 (shoplifting).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade the investigating RCMP member to not forward criminal charges after we settled the matter civilly on our client's behalf. No criminal record.

R. v. J.D. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to continue with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr.Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to refer our client to the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.  

R. vs. C.L. – Civil Fraud Investigation

Charge: Fraud/Theft from employer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to negotiate repayment on our client's behalf and obtained a civil release from the employer. No charges were forwarded to Crown counsel. No criminal record.

The Defence

Consent

To prove an assault charge, the Crown must prove that the accused person actually made, or intended to make, contact with the complainant and that the complainant did not consent. Therefore, for example, one possible defence to an assault charge is that the complainant actually consented to the contact. This type of defence may apply to an assault that is alleged in the context of a bar fight.

Another defence that is typically advanced in assault cases is formed under s. 34 of the Criminal Code – the rules of “self-defence.”

Self Defence

The law allows that if a person reasonably believes that force is being used (or threatened to be used) against them, they are allowed to use force to defend themselves, or another person, so long as the force they use is reasonable. In determining whether the force used is reasonable, the court will consider various circumstances, including:

  • The nature of the force or threat;
  • The extent to which there was an alternative to using force;
  • The size, gender and physical capabilities of the parties; and
  • The history and relationship of the parties.

Essentially, self-defence is available to the extent that the accused person objectively had to defend themselves (or another person) and that the force used was not excessive. We have over 25 years of courtroom experience defending assault charges. Our experience allows us to assess cases before they get to trial and, in appropriate cases, we are able to persuade Crown counsel to not proceed with the prosecution. This may result in our client being accepted into the alternative measures program, a peace bond or an outright stay of proceedings.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.